Pinguicula [ping-WIK-yoo-la] genus consists of carnivorous plants and members of the Lentibulariaceae family.
The plant’s common name butterwort comes from the Latin word pinguis, which means small and fat one.
It was coined by Conrad Gesner in his 1561 publication Horti Germaniaei.
The genus is made up of about 80 Pinguicula species including:
- Pinguicula moranensis
- Pinguicula ehlersiae
- Pinguicula gigantea the tropical butterwort plant.
Out of the 80 Pinguicula species, 13 are native to Europe and 9 to North America.
A few are native to northern Asia.
Besides these, the majority of species are endemic to South and Central America.
In their native habits, these carnivorous plants attract, trap, and consume insects with their leaves.
Pinguicula Butterwort Plant Care
Size & Growth
The plant is significantly small and stalkless.
It consists of lanceolate carnivorous leaves arranged in a basal rosette.
The leaves are covered in glands and secretory cells covering the leaf surface with sticky sap.
The sap attracts insects and then traps them.
The leaves also produce digestive enzymes which begin breaking down the insect.
The plant takes its time to develop and usually covers half a foot of ground cover.
Flowering and Fragrance
These carnivorous plants do flower.
The plant stays in bloom during spring and early summer, from May to July.
It produces orchid-like flowers held above the plant.
This is so the carnivores can trap insects without anything in the way.
Typically butterwort flowers are blue, purple, white or violet.
Some variants might be suffused with a yellowish or greenish tint.
True red flowers are produced by the Laueana butterwort while P. agnata produces a striking blue one.
The flowers are long-lasting and have 5 petals.
Two lower lip petals are a characteristic of the genus.
Light & Temperature
Butterworts are hardy to USDA Hardiness Zones 3 to 7 but this may vary depending on the species and variety you’re using.
They grow best in full sun, where they get morning sunlight directly.
Partial shade during the day when it’s the hottest is necessary, especially for tropical butterworts as they might get stressed out.
The plants can tolerate temperatures between 77° – 95° degrees Fahrenheit (25° – 35° C) in the summer growing season.
In winter, when the plants are dormant, the optimal temperature is between 50° – 64° degrees Fahrenheit (10° – 18° C).
Watering and Feeding
Interestingly, butterworts are susceptible to root rot from overwatering when other carnivorous plants are not.
They don’t tolerate wet soils, so keeping it barely damp is sufficient.
Space out watering based on the soil’s conditions.
If the topsoil is dry to touch, water thoroughly.
Also, be careful about letting the soil dry out completely.
As for feeding, the plants don’t need fertilizer.
They are self-sufficient and may even have a bad reaction to fertilizer.
Soil & Transplanting
Butterwort plants prefer boggy, alkaline soils.
However, it does best with a coarse soil mix consisting of two parts perlite and one part sphagnum.
Avoid using fertilizer or any form of insecticide in the soil as it may kill it.
The species should be transplanted once a year or every other year, depending on your plant’s growth.
The best time to transplant is mid-March.
Indoor plants are easier to transplant and removed with the soil lump and planted in individual pots.
Grooming and Maintenance
It’s no accident these plants are known as the best among other species.
This is because they are incredibly low-maintenance and easy to grow.
They are also considered a beginner carnivorous plant.
They can withstand winters, tolerate lack of sunlight, and even moderate watering.
You don’t have to spend too much time grooming, only removing offsets when necessary.
How to Propagate Butterwort Plants
In their natural habitat, butterwort plants spread with the help of pollinators, especially hummingbirds.
However, it’s propagated by leaf cuttings, division, and seeds.
The latter of the three is done best done in early spring.
- Use your favorite potting soil mix to fill a pot to the top, with the top 1 cm sifted for a finer substrate.
- Instead of burying the seeds, sow them on the soil.
- The soil should be moist and not sopping wet.
- Germinate for several weeks in high humidity and temperatures between 60° – 80° degrees Fahrenheit (15° – 28° C).
- When miniature plants appear, separate them into separate pots.
During winter, when the plant is in dormancy, get new plants by dividing the offsets or cutting leaves.
Divide the offset in winter and plant as independent plants.
For leaves, use pure peat and provide lots of humidity to encourage rooting.
Butterwort Pest or Diseases
Most butterwort species are free from major diseases.
They are also invulnerable to most indoor pests.
Any potential pest or insect attack is not a problem as the plant is carnivorous.
It will be easier to control with other carnivorous plants in the vicinity.
Pinguicula Butterwort Uses
Butterworts are quite interesting species of plants.
Some species like Pinguicula vulgaris, Pinguicula moranensis (Mexican butterwort), and others are relatively easy to grow.
They thrive in bog gardens and favored by carnivorous plant enthusiasts.
They’re often grown with other carnivorous plants such as trumpet pitcher plants (Sarracenia), Venus flytraps (Dionaea muscipula), Sundews, (Drosera) and bladderworts (Utricularia).
Some commercial orchid producers use the plant to combat any pests.
The Pinguicula cyclosecta species grows great indoors and makes a great houseplant or addition in a succulent terrarium.
Historically, the succulent leaves of the plants were used to make fermented milk product called filmjölk in Sweden and tjukkmjølkin Norway.